Regarding Gary Stern's interview in Florida at the operator venue:
Please try and understand his audience at the time.
He wants to give "hope" to operators, even though the market and tide has turned.
This is not the first time this has been discussed.
The only true venues that are commercially viable are "hot pockets" in certain parts of the US and world.
Right now that means Chicago, Seattle, Portland, NYC, and certain parts of CA.
Market sales abroad are seriously slumping due to overall NIB costs, and the fact that private sales are not anywhere as high in the United States.
Stern is not focused on operators, keeping pinball affordable to operators, or any of that discussion.
They would not have price jumped games an average of $500 every 6 months for the past 5 years, if this was the case.
Only one game out of FOUR released this ENTIRE YEAR was focused at operators, GB.
That is 25% of all produced games.
This does not seem operator focused from my perspective.
GoT was a 2015 title rerun, along with anything else in small batches they decide to do, most of which was premium not pro models.
Pabst - NO
BM66 - NO
SMVE - NO
GB - YES
The future of pro models after the next couple of years is questionable, especially if they are successfully able to provide another home model to consumers. I think they will be completely gone within two years. Operators need to step up to a Premium (which is becoming the new pro at the current time) or move on.
What are operators doing?
Many operators are already moving on and thumbing their noses at Stern (as operators thumbed noses at WMS over 20 years ago), holding their existing stock, as pinball is neither profitable, monetarily feasible, or selling off what they already own.
Gary Stern has a tendency to "flip back and forth" based on where and when he is talking at different venues to generate a market "perspective".
There is a muddling with good justification based on what needs to occur in the industry as a whole.
Many operators are fairly new to the game, meaning less than 10-15 years, and jumped onto the train during the latest resurgence (last 6 years), or decided to dabble back in the world of pinball to diversify their machine stock. They certainly are interested in the opinion of the controlling entity of the industry. This was evident based on the nature of the questions, which leaned towards people that were private owners more than operators anyway. History development question about Lazer Wars and QuickSilver? (Price of tea in China please?) This is not an operator type of question, and is inconsequential to an operator. Another question was asked regarding released of a BM66 "operator version", which Gary clearly stated this was not the targeted market.
But anyway, here is the crux.
Stern changed their market focus and tactics back all the way back in 2006 to the home market (perhaps closer to 2005, but the effects were seen in 2006), when Gary was forced by his investors and certain levels of production were wrested away from this control due to his unwillingness to accept certain points of change, meaning private owners are the primary market, not the other way around.
Essentially he is an extensive shareholder and figurehead of the company now, not the decisive factor on how and what games get made.
I am not dismissing his direct influence in the company or industry, however.
This was done in order to prevent the company from losing more income based on decreased sales and moving towards bankruptcy.
Designers were open with their comments back then, and many levels of detail can still be found on the internet.
Board room meetings are not posted videos on Youtube, based on decisions.
It was the birth of the "LE" a year later with SMB.
It was a rerun push period of successful "savior titles" such as TSPP, LOTR, and even HD.
They cannot say that the operator remains the driving force of the market (even at 50% which is different response from the previous 30% reported, when he stated 70% of the market was home use which was targeted at the private owner audience), because it is not at the present time, and has not been the case since the early 2000s.
He just "adjusts" his discussion temperance dependent on whomever is talking to at the moment.
He did not do that at the Expo 30th Anniversary party as that was directed at consumers.
The true reality:
He keeps trying to sell ice water to thirsty camels with no cash because camels do not have pockets.
Maybe if they were kangaroos instead...
Jokes aside, I got into a serious argument with somebody a while back that did not have all the history and seeing what was going on behind the scenes in the early 2000s.
Public declarations are not realities, it is part of the industry "smoke and mirrors" for advertisement, sales, and profit.
This friendly interview is an extension of the industry concepts.
Gary is never going to tell fledging operators, "we are not supporting you, it simply is not profitable anymore."
It is like telling private owners, "Hey, we know this game design is a complete dud with incomplete code, and non working features but we want you to pay full retail anyway."
Gary did admit to the nature of if a game is dud, it can have dire consequences to a company, and he is speaking from direct experience of the past. Simply, half truths with not all facts together at the same time to make a positive point.
Gary directly mentioned in the video, he is out of touch with the themes and what people want to play.
Although directed as a joke, he was being truthful and accurate of game production control which was appreciated.
People should note very closely what he talking about regarding "proper retail outlets to buy pinball machines".
Those actually already EXIST in small numbers all over the country, but that is NOT what he was referring to overall.
He tipped his hand.
BM66 LE and SLE was sold DIRECTLY to consumers as another part of a test market, anyway, as a big "$#@! you" to distributors.
He was indirectly talking in his discussion about the Stern Store concept (untested and potentially developed in 2017), and squeezing out the middleman distributors that he says are predominantly selling to operators???, which is untrue.
By having private stores, Stern increases profit margins again, couple with existing reduction of features, and increasing prices.
That should make distributors perk their ears up.
They are not going to have a "coupon day" at the Stern Stores, nor will they reduce prices to increase the consumer market.
The pinball market is still too damn small.
He also talked about "The Pin" indirectly with Costco (test market), watch this closely in the future, wherever they may choose to test sell "The Pin v2.0". I don't think it will be Best Buy or Sears, but perhaps WalMart would be a better choice, if sales could be negotiated, SM game is ready, and the market is prepared for this "lower cost home consumer quality game" (ie the pro of the future).
There is a lot of relevancy regarding the future of this industry in his latest "fireside chat".
Gary Stern is once again mixing realities with concepts for sales, advertising, and income for the benefit of the company.
Distributors are selling the vast majority to private owners, and any of them will state this aspect clearly.
Pick one of choice, any of the largest ones, not "mom and pop" dealers.
How does this help operators?
Not a whole lot, unless every private owner buying machines for their home is excited to play location games as well based on enthusiasm.
The realities are, many are buying these games so they DON'T have to go out on location to play, or never cared to do in the first place.
I don't go to barcades to play games I own in my house.
I might go for a tournament or with friends, but generally we end up going to each other's homes.
That is the advantage of a "private collection owner".
BTW, I completely agree that STLE was the last true limited edition game with substantial effort being placed in making the game unique.
Now, it's decals (including the "backglass"), different recycled side armor, and reduced basic features. All for $3000 more than what was being sold less than a couple of years ago. Nobody is going to tell me that any SPIKE game has more features than a SAM equivalent game, because that is is a bunch of crap.
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